[Episcopal News Service – Austin, Texas] General Convention addressed some 18 resolutions further strengthening its position on stewardship of the environment and creation care, sending a message of engagement to Episcopalians churchwide.
“The number of care of creation resolutions that passed General Convention 79 was remarkable and a sign of a growing, vital spirit in the Episcopal Church around creation care,” said California Bishop Marc Andrus, a member of the Environmental Stewardship and Care of Creation Committee and co-chair of the Advisory Council on the Stewardship of Creation, in a statement emailed to Episcopal News Service.
The 79th General Convention met at the Austin Convention Center from July 5-13. Creation care is one of the three priorities of the Episcopal Church. The other two are evangelism and racial reconciliation and justice.
Several creation care resolutions, including A018, addressed Episcopalians’ participation in the Paris Agreement. The Paris Agreement calls on the countries of the world to limit carbon emissions voluntarily, which will require a decrease in dependence on fossil fuels in favor of renewable energy sources; and for developed countries, those responsible for the majority of emissions both historically and at present, to commit to $100 billion in development aid annually by 2020 to developing countries.
In June 2017, as part of his “American First” strategy, President Donald Trump announced the United States’ withdrawal from the international agreement, saying it undermines the economy and places the United States at a disadvantage.
By addressing participation in the Paris Agreement, the Episcopal Church joined the We Are Still In movement.
“We said we valued our participation in the United Nations climate summits and resolved to fully engage in them,” said Andrus.
“At the level of us as Episcopalians, and in our congregations, institutions and dioceses, we began the beautiful, big commitment to daily choices leading to sustainable lives. It is possible that the Episcopal Church is the first denomination to join the partnership of businesses, cities, states, regions, faith bodies and tribes working together to keep the United States’ commitment to the Paris Agreement,” Andrus said.
Resolution C049 encourages churches to serve and promote locally grown food. B027 introduced gender inclusivity in climate change action. A213 promotes energy and water efficiency across the church. B025 urges the church to learn about regional watersheds and aquifers, recognizes water as a publicly held natural system and access to water and sanitation as a human right. C063 advocates for ocean health through public policy advocacy, for example “to prevent or limit adverse effects to species and ecosystems from offshore oil, gas, and mineral exploration, drilling, and extraction and to support sustainable fisheries” and “to prevent illegal fishing, over-fishing, and by-catch.”
“[What] these resolutions are helpful for is, that while we do live on the frontline of creation, we do have a lot of variety in the sorts of parishes and property that we use,” said Alaska Bishop Mark Lattime, who served as the committee’s secretary.
“I’ve got churches in our urban areas that have been asking about what kind of support we can get so that we can perhaps change some of our properties, how we could be more energy efficient, how we can be more active in reducing greenhouse gases, and I think the resolutions that we adopted and looked at this year will help to provide those resources, as well.”
Not all the creation care resolutions, however, originated in the stewardship and creation care committee. On July 12, the House of Bishops received “with open and broken hearts the witness of Bernadette Demientieff to the struggle and plight of the Gwich’in people” by unanimously passing Resolution X023.
Even in times of food shortage and starvation, the Gwich’in have chosen not to go into the coastal plain, which they consider “the sacred place where life begins,” said Demientieff, during a July 10 TEConversation focused on creation care.
Energy companies view the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, particularly its 1.5 million-acre coastal plain, as a potential oil and natural gas bonanza. This conflict has fueled for more than 30 years a contentious debate over whether this coastal plain should be opened to oil drilling or kept as unspoiled habitat.
“The Episcopal Church has historically stood in solidarity with the Gwich’in, but right now is a very crucial time because of course the 1002 section of the ANWR has been opened for further exploration and development in the extractions field, and that’s of great, great concern,” said Lattime.
Finally, A068 called for eventual liturgical revisions to the Book of Common Prayer “that incorporate and express understanding, appreciation, and care of God’s creation.”
During convention, the Diocese of California launched a web-based carbon tracker for the Episcopal Church intended to support personal and communal choices. The fully functional carbon tracker will be available to U.S.-based diocese of the Episcopal Church by spring 2019 and the rest of the church by the fall.
— Lynette Wilson is a reporter and managing editor of the Episcopal News Service.